Ever since the Arrowverse kicked off several years ago, we’ve seen all manner of heroes step into the spotlight. There was the grim justice of Arrow, the optimism of The Flash and the absolute lunacy of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths wrapped up with a major casualty that was felt across the Multiverse, it’s time for some new blood to take to the stage.
A hero for tomorrow, Stargirl’s premise is a simple one: Brec Bessinger stars as Courtney Whitmore, having just moved to the sleepy town of Blue Valley alongside her new stepfather Pat Dugan. But surprise! Dugan has a secret, namely that he was the sidekick of Starman in a previous life and had fought alongside the Justice Society of America. Tragedy eventually struck the team, and years later it’s up to a new generation of heroes to step up and face off against a revived evil.
Action! Family! And of course, a kickass soundtrack from renowned composer Pinar Toprak, who was given the responsibility of establishing the musical atmosphere of Stargirl. I recently had a chance to chat to her, about finding the right sound, grabbing a full orchestra to create a cinematic soundtrack and the delicious fun of coming up with the devilish themes for the Injustice Society of America.
You’ve flexed your musical muscles lately on some of the biggest superhero properties to hit the big and small screen: Captain Marvel, Krypton and Behind Enemy Lines 2: Pretty Sure That Was a Comic Book Movie. With all of that work, have those projects influenced how you approached the soundtrack for Stargirl?
Honestly I try to look at every project as their own thing and not try to cross-influence anything. I’ve really tried to look at Courtney and the entire storyline as unique, and obviously there are certain things that you do within the genre that’s part of the sound colour palette. For the most part I looked at Star Girl as her own unique concept.
Television shows now feature grander and far more cinematic soundtracks. Were you given the chance to compose something that required a massive number of hands and assorted instrumental talents?
Absolutely. Our first meeting with Geoff Johns, the creator and showrunner of Stargirl and someone that I’ve admired for many many years actually, when we first talked about the sound before anything was even shot, I knew from the start how cinematic the vision was. I don’t want to give too much away but you’re going to see incredible CGI and a very cinematic experience.
In order to make that happen, I kindly asked if we could have an orchestra for the score. Which is not very common in TV shows. We had a real live orchestra for all 13 episodes and our finale was a 60-piece orchestra recorded at Warner Bros. We were really blessed and you can just tell how sonically that translates onto the screen. It gives an entirely cinematic experience, both from the visual and front, the acting, the storyline and the CGI and music.
How much freedom were you given for Stargirl? Were you given a blank canvas on which to create the score?
Honestly I was so fortunate, I was kind of given entire freedom to create what I was envisioning and very little has changed from what I have done. So initially my gut feeling was trusted, which was very valuable for me with the creative process, and we had wonderful dialogues with Geoff. I think we did our initial conversations and all of that really well. We both knew and we had enough understanding of what we wanted to accomplish. He trusted me and I feel very fortunate to have his trust.
What’s the core sound of Stargirl? What’s the driving theme behind the music that describes her?
For Star Girl, there’s a very distinct theme that you’re going to hear and for other characters that will appear throughout the series, we definitely thought of distinctive themes for each and every one of them. For me, this is just how she comes to her own, where it starts and how she gets herself up and finds the power within her. Technically the whole story takes place in a suburban town so there are a lot of callbacks to Back to the Future. A very traditional approach to the score. But the theme itself is very empowering, very uplifting and throughout the score you’re going to see that there are a lot of vulnerable moments as well.
This delicate mother-daughter, stepfather-daughter, step-siblings…there’s just a lot of very human emotions and interactions. We go epic and hue, but the theme there is that there a lot of very delicate moments in there as well. Naturally there are some hybrid elements in the score, it’s just what felt very natural, but the overall sound for the score that I was going for is more of a timeless quality.
At the same time, a hero is only good as their villains. What was it like coming up with the sound for evil, the Injustice Society?
The villains are always fun to write, because you can go very dark and nasty and weird! The sound is certainly darker, but for the approach it’s very traditional with touches of hybrid elements to really augment what we wanted to do with the orchestra rather than that being the core. I think it’s all about tension, dark and light. The extremes in one that brings out the other one. If we constantly had good then the good wouldn’t have any value and if you just had bad all the time then that’s not really great either.
I think it’s about finding that tension and release, the different extremes and how they come together. You see good people going through dark times, so how do you make that musically change? That’s also really fun.
Stargirl kicks off its first season on The CW, on May 18.
Last Updated: May 15, 2020